KINGSTON, Jamaica -- More than 500,000 people were ordered evacuated from coastal areas in Jamaica as Hurricane Ivan, an extremely strong Category 4 storm with winds -- close to Category 5 strength -- topping out at 150 mph was set to hit the island sometime Friday night or early Saturday morning.
At press time, the storm was still about 45 miles southeast of Kingston, but island already was feeling the effects of the deadly storm, which left up to 23 dead in the rest of the Caribbean, according to published reports. With sustained winds of 150 mph, Ivan could regain Category 5 status as it passes Jamaica, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The storms current path has the eye wall passing directly over Kingston, the islands capital of 1 million in the southeast and moving across the island, exiting around Montego Bay in the northwest.
Even before the storm reached the island, according to an AP report, parts of the main coastal road outside or Montego Bay have been washed away while two-story waves are crashing to shore near Kingston.
Once the eye wall comes ashore, storm surge flooding of five to eight feet above normal tide levels and large and dangerous battering waves are to be expected as well as rainfall amounts of six to 10 inches causing life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, the National Hurricane Center said.
In addition, a hurricane warning also was issued for the Cayman Islands while hurricane watches and tropical storm warnings were issued for Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Florida Keys. Hurricane Ivan is expected to pass over the Cayman Islands Saturday and Cuba Sunday before making U.S. landfall somewhere in Florida on Monday, although forecasters still cannot predict where the storm will hit.
Mandatory evacuation orders started Thursday in the Florida Keys for visitors and Friday for residents in anticipation of the storm. Visit Floridas Web site, www.visitflorida.org, is posting updates and links to emergency hotline information as conditions warrant.
To contact Managing Editor of TravelWeekly.com Kimberly Scholz, send e-mail to [email protected].